My Story

My husband and I came to Palo Alto in 2005 to follow his career at Sun Microsystems. We chose to live in Palo Alto because of the schools, the canopy, University Avenue, and the promise of being part of the dream. We bought a house, a cute cottage that was only a little outside our price range. It wasn’t easy trying to make it in Palo Alto, but we were among the lucky ones, with two incomes and no kids. In our neighborhood, we saw so many stories play out around us as different families faced the struggles that you don’t see advertised in the real estate flyers.

Fifteen years later, we have 2 kids in the public schools, I have a 10-year career at Google behind me and a graduate degree from Stanford in, of all things, fairy tales. My thesis centered around the juxtaposition of the beautiful and carefully curated world of the Brothers Grimm, against the living, breathing folk tales that were passed down through oral tradition. The Grimms' stories were tailored for the elite and painted golden pictures. The people’s folk tales were much less polished, but told stories of tragedy and resilience, loss and growth, struggles and triumph.

Since then I keep going back to this concept. The golden dream of Palo Alto isn’t attainable to most of the people who live and work here. Like the fairy tales, there are two versions of Palo Alto. There is the Palo Alto that is a leafy, idyllic college town nestled between San Francisco and San Jose, that offers safe streets and top-rated schools, and then there’s the Palo Alto that has allowed systemic racism to remain. There is the Palo Alto that makes space for entrepreneurs, but not for city staffers, teachers, and essential workers who work here, but can’t live here, much less buy a home here. There is the Palo Alto that is the dream that many still hold onto, and a privileged few actually live, and there’s the Palo Alto where the rest of our residents are living a very different reality.

As I attended the Black Lives Matter protest in King Plaza earlier this month, I listened to voices of a Palo Alto experience that broke my heart. More recently, many of our neighbors cheered as racist statues were being toppled from Virginia to Coit Tower, but we have been silent and still when it comes to toppling racist statutes here in our city.

The story of Palo Alto is not a fairy tale. It is real life, and we are the magic that makes it work. We can do better. We must do better. Let’s bring together the best of both versions of Palo Alto. We can have the beauty and charm and the educational opportunities of Palo Alto alongside justice and dignity for all our residents. We can have our abundant single family homes, alongside the homes of students, young families, seniors, teachers, and tech workers. For our Palo Alto story to be great, for us to deliver that promise to our kids and grandkids, we need to keep the city alive. We need to shape it and cultivate it and allow it to thrive.

Shaping the City through planning and zoning is one of the skills I acquired in my time on the Planning and Transportation Commission. Land use policy, will be important to Council’s work ahead. We also need a sustainable transportation plan that will allow our city to combat climate change, and traffic, at the same time. And we need to take concrete steps to achieve better representation for traditionally underrepresented groups in our community, including ensuring that our panels, boards, and commissions are diverse and representative of the community.

I left the tech world and entered public service in 2017 because I felt that I needed to make a difference. I have the background and the leadership to help our city deal with these issues. As a career project manager, I know how to get people who passionately disagree with each other to come to the table to reach a common goal. And I also understand that our solutions must be win-win, or no deal. We won’t sacrifice the good of one part of the community for the other. As leaders, we have a moral imperative to address the barriers to opportunity for all our residents. We need to make the promise of Palo Alto available to everyone who lives here. It’s hard work to reexamine our systems and practices and redesign them to work better for everyone. But that’s our job.

So, to close, I offer hope for change, starting with a quote from the first line of the first story in Grimms' Fairytales, “The Frog King.” The story starts, “Once upon a time, when wishes still came true....” Our story doesn’t start with wishing. Wishing won’t work, but voting does. Please vote for change, and vote for me for City Council this November. We can’t do this alone, but together we can move mountains.

About Me

I have lived in Palo Alto for 15 years: we started out in Ventura, and now my husband and I live in Barron Park with our two young children. We first joined Palo Alto's Preschool Family, and now we are active members of the Ohlone and Fletcher school communities. I also volunteer locally for nonprofits and voter advocacy groups.

After over a decade working in high tech in Silicon Valley, I retired from technical program management in 2017 to complete a master’s degree at Stanford, after which I dedicated my time to public service.

I'm excited to be participating in our local City government as the Chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission, and I would love to give even more time to our beautiful City as we regroup and recover from the upcoming pandemic-related financial challenges. We are a strong, creative, resilient community, and the best is yet to come.

Public Service

I have served as a Planning & Transportation Commissioner (PTC) for the City of Palo Alto since December 2018. In January 2020, my peers unanimously voted for me to be PTC Chair. I also serve as the PTC representative on the Expanded Community Advisory Panel (XCAP), which is evaluating the train grade crossing alternatives. Prior to joining the PTC, I served as a member of the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan (NVCAP) working group, which is a panel of community members participating in creating a planning and development vision for the future of the former Fry's site and nearby properties.


In 2018, I graduated from Emerge California, the premier incubator program for current and future women candidates. Now, I participate in party politics as a state and county delegate for the Democratic Party. I also work on state and local political campaigns in digital strategy helping elect progressive women.

Cari with Emerge Alumnae at the State Capitol for graduation
Cari's first day as Planning and Transportation Commissioner
Cari leading a community organizing meeting
Cari at a Democratic Party event